The president as media critic

President Trump began his lengthy oration in Phoenix last night with an extended attack on the media’s coverage of his statements about events in Charlottesville. Trump didn’t just attack the media in general. He named names.

The New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, and ABC News received harsh criticism. At the same time, Trump praised Fox News and, especially, Sean Hannity.

I agree with most of these assessments. But I still haven’t gotten used to the idea of the U.S. President singling out media outlets for condemnation or praise at a mass political rally.

I’m not saying that Trump is wrong to engage in such media criticism in the current environment. The media is waging unrelenting war against this president. He has the right to object — publicly, loudly, and with specificity.

What he must not do is try to censor the media or to obstruct it. So far he hasn’t.

When Trump denounces the media for distorting the facts, he should avoid distortion himself. Last night, Trump gave a distorted version of the media’s coverage of his statements about Charlottesville.

Trump read portions of his three statements, but only the innocuous, non-controversial portions. He read the parts about there being no place for violence and about the need for peace, love, and harmony. He read his denunciation of Nazis and the KKK.

He did not read his statement about both sides sharing blame for violence or about good people attending the alt-right protest. The first statement needed to made, in my view. The second is likely true.

But these are the comments that produced the firestorm. It was highly misleading for Trump to exclude them from his summary of the facts and to claim that the main media criticism was that his high-minded statements came too late. The main media criticism was that some of his statements came at all.

What we have here is a battle between a less than honest liberal media and a less than honest president. It’s likely to end badly for both sides.

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